This past Thanksgiving, in the “giving” spirit of the holidays, I decided to place a basket full of fruits just outside my exam room at The Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region. As a pediatrician who is constantly fighting obesity and its consequences daily, I wanted to expose my patients to healthy foods, especially when they come in to see their doctor. I thought it would be a great way to motivate and encourage my patients and their families, as well as the rest of the health center staff, to eat better.
Initially I think everyone thought it was a basket of fake, plastic fruits, and some were curious why there was a random basket of fruits in the hallway. I encouraged everyone to try one of the fruits . Six months later, I’ve seen the demand from my patients and colleagues, and I continue to keep the basket full of fruits.
I start the week by bringing in new fruits (apples, oranges, bananas , berries etc..) and usually by end of Thursday the basket is empty. Before long, my patients, their families, and the staff would grab a fruit while walking by or while waiting in the exam room. Some of my routine patients already knew about the basket of fruits in the hallway so they would come over from the waiting room and ask if they could take an orange. Sometimes if I run out, my patients will ask me, “Dr. Nair, do you have more fruit?”
I get really excited when I see children eating a juicy red apple or a bag of berries, and exposing them to new foods is an added benefit. For example, one of my patients had never tried blackberries before, and she had her first taste in our office. It is truly amazing to me see how easily you can achieve positive results by doing something a little differently or making a small beneficial gesture. This basket of fruits is no longer a special treat at Thanksgiving but a staple at my office all year round.
Lastly, the positive impact of having this bowl of fruits has also confirmed my belief that if you continuously expose people, both kids and adults, to healthy nutritious options, then the brain rewires and a healthy habit is created. Now, I love to hear my patients ask, “Can I have another fruit?” rather than, “Do I get a lollipop?”
Dr. Santhi Nair is a pediatrician at the Community Health Center of the Rappahannock Region and founding Board Member of the Doctor Yum Project